UNESCO and VIVA Tech host pitch session for AI-based solutions that benefit people and planet

Startups were asked for their solutions on how to harness AI to tackle challenges related to biodiversity, gender equality and language barriers. Selected finalists reflect UNESCO’s commitment to ensuring access to information and harnessing new technologies to improve people’s lives and tackle sustainable development challenges.

UNESCO and VivaTech launched a call for AI-based solutions that benefit people and the planet. In three challenges startups were asked to share their ideas on how to use technology to address challenges related to biodiversity, gender bias, and cracking language barriers.

During a pitch event in person at Viva Tech on 16 June, nine selected startups presented their solutions to an exceptionally exciting jury. One finalist per challenge was awarded the winning position, with a trophy from Viva Tech.

The winner of the individual challenges are:

Challenge 1: Conserving our Biodiversity. Harnessing AI to preserve our Planet

  • KLASS, a start-up that specialises in automated recognition of biodiversity. Using AI-powered tools, large curated datasets, and data dashboards for labs and biodiversity-dependent businesses, the start-up bridges the gap between AI and biodiversity to help labs and biodiversity-dependent businesses with real-time wildlife monitoring. Klass’ autonomous camera data dashboard features state-of-the-art AI algorithms (Computer Vision) for wildlife analytics with over 90% accuracy. KLASS also provides plug-and-play tools, customizable with adds-on for scalable deployment on any platform. Klass has also developed an autonomous camera that classifies biodiversity in real-time and connects to an app for users. This solution has already been deployed for light moth and pollinators and are extending to other fauna specimens.

Challenge 2: Gender bias and discrimination. Reducing the gender digital divide by exposing bias in AI

  • Syntho is an enterprise that has found ways to harness AI to reduce algorithmic bias and discrimination by generating ‘fair’ synthetic data. The synthetic data can supplement shortages of training data whereby certain groups of people are underrepresented, and correct coloured data from the past whereby certain groups of people are negatively under- or over-exposed. With their innovation, Syntho is able to provide AI software that enables organisations to boost data-driven innovation in a privacy-preserving manner.

Challenge 3: Cracking the Language Barrier through Data and AI. Strengthening access to information in low resource languages

  • Lanfrica, an online platform that documents existing research, results, benchmarks and projects (completed and ongoing) on African languages and presents them in a user-friendly manner. The platform works for all African languages by creating an online, open-source database system for easy, at-a-glance access to existing Natural Language Processing (NLP) research, Machine Translation (MT) research and results involving African languages. Lanfrica implements a participatory, community-led approach to populating the database with existing research involving African languages.

The judges for the pitch event were:

  • Damien Gromier, CEO and co-founder, StartUp Inside, UNESCO AI For the Planet partner
  • Jean Michel Jarre, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador
  • Sasha Rubel, Programme Specialist, Digital Innovation and Transformation, UNESCO
  • Jamil Seftaoui, Director, Gender Equality, Cabinet of the Director-General, UNESCO
  • Vincent Viollain, Head of Partnerships, Viva Tech

The pitch event was part of the 5th Edition of Viva Tech 2021 Europe’s biggest startup and tech event, taking place between 16 and 19 June in Paris and online. Among others, President Emmanuel Macron, Cedric O, Secretary of State for the Digital Economy, Mark Zuckerberg, Co-Founder of Facebook and Tim Cook, CEO of Apple were present at the event.

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